The Domino Effect, Project Management and What We Do About It

Sometimes we need to make a change to a video.

We handle it all the time at Simplifilm.  Everything from the “de-emphasis of a feature,” to “hey, this is a better way to do something.”

We don’t mind making the changes, but sometimes there are unintended (and trivial) consequences.  Running a tight calendar means that our animators have to be in production and working on something all the time.  What clients don’t often know is how that impacts everything else down the line.  That’s something everyone should understand.

We’re happy to handle changes.

Just so long as we are all aware that sometimes a change in the beginning of a project has a disproportionate delay down the road.

Let’s explain.  In broad strokes, our projects have 4 phases:

Writing & Concept: where we can write the video, work out a script and flesh out which product features we’re highlighting.  We also get to know one another and talk through ideas.

Pre-animation: This is the “ready to animate” status.  We need to get a voice over done, we need to get music recorded.  We need to get everything made and started so a project can be animated.

This means we need:

  • All assets from the client : logo, design work and such
  • Voice Over final approval
  • other little details that may be project specific.

Animation- This is where we draw or animate the movie and make it pretty.  We make the scenes and collaborate with our people.

Finish work- This is revisions, little details and the “frosting” that makes the cake work.  This includes sound effects,  maybe some color correction and the occasional picky little detail that we think is important.

Each “phase” for the most part has a bottleneck.  We can’t start animating until we have a final approval on the voice over.  (Other companies may do it differently, but having a precisely timed animation is what makes our movies stand out and convert).

The problem is that a delay early can mean that everything else is late.

For example: if a script change happens before animation it may mean we have to re-record the voice over.

Most of our VO contractors get back to us within a business day or so, but we are stuck cooling our heels till  that’s done.  Meanwhile, our animator could be planned and prepped for a project.

So, he can’t start on Wednesday, he has to start another project.  And since our animators generally work about 2 projects at a time, a one day delay could mean a longer delay down the road.

Here’s what we’re implementing to help people understand.

This is why getting feedback in early is critical to having a project delivered on time.  Missing approvals can also cause delays.

First step: we create a project plan.  The plan is when we need to have everything done and finalized in each section.  We go over when we want the script, animation and everything else we’re doing.

Second Step: we’ll confirm that changes will or won’t impact the project plan.  Changes happen.  We sometimes find a better way of phrasing something, we’ll let you know if it means we may deviate from deadlines

Final Step:  be proactive.  We sometimes fall behind and we have to mitigate it.  We’ll make sure that we communicate any deviations on our end.

Now, we know that “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

Still, having a plan is the least we can do to try and win.  We will be happy  to make things work, but we have to work together to make sure that you come in on time.